Badminton: Danny, Neo revive Rio chances with upset win

Danny Bawa Chrisnanta and Vanessa Neo's performance in Malaysia is their best on the circuit this year and gives them confidence for the Singapore Open next week.
Danny Bawa Chrisnanta and Vanessa Neo's performance in Malaysia is their best on the circuit this year and gives them confidence for the Singapore Open next week.PHOTO: COURTESY OF NICHOLAS ZHANG

Having chased an elusive dream that in recent months has only felt impossible, national mixed doubles shuttlers Danny Bawa Chrisnanta and Vanessa Neo finally saw some hope in their Olympic chances yesterday.

They upset world No. 8 Praveen Jordan and Debby Susanto 21-19, 21-14 at the Malaysia Open, securing their first win over the Indonesians in three meetings, having been defeated in straight games just a month ago at the All England Open.

It also earns them a place in the quarter-finals of the Superseries Premier event today against China's world No. 1 and reigning Olympic champions Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei.

Said Neo: "We were able to keep up with their speed and made less unforced errors today. We didn't have anything to lose and just went in wanting to give our opponents a good fight.

"We analysed with our coach on their game play and were more alert this time."

Added coach Nunung Wibyanto: "They were able to control the shuttle despite the strong draught in the hall. Danny played with confidence and Vanessa was able to take control of the front of the court."

What is of greater significance about the result, however, is that it boosts their hopes of qualifying for the Aug 5-21 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The result is the pair's best showing on the international circuit this season. Barring a second- round appearance at the German Open last month, they suffered first-round exits at all five other tournaments they competed in.

Once ranked among the top 10 in the world in 2013, their world ranking has since tumbled to No. 28.

The standings published on May 5 will determine the final slate of shuttlers competing in Rio, with the top 16 pairs making the cut. It will take into consideration the maximum quota places allowed for each team while ensuring all five continental confederations are represented.

Danny and Neo are 10,616 ranking points away from Thailand's Bodin Issara and Savitree Amitrapai (No. 17), the next higher- ranked Asian pair in the race to Rio.

The Singaporeans will pick up at least 6,050 points from the Malaysia Open and with the Thais earning only 1,060 after falling in the qualifiers, there is belief yet that what has felt like a hopeless pursuit for months is finally on the up.

Following the Shah Alam event, the pair are pencilled in for next week's OUE Singapore Open at the Indoor Stadium, as well as the China Masters and the Badminton Asia Championships before the final ranking list is released.

Said Neo: "We try not to think about the rankings and go into every match giving our best. We focus more on the process than the end result.

"We're going to go into the Singapore Open with more confidence. We believe that we are able to match the other players in the world."

Meanwhile, China's Lin Dan made light work of Thai Boonsak Ponsana, winning their encounter yesterday 21-15, 21-9. Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei beat South Korean Son Wan Ho 21-18, 21- 12.

In the women's singles, world No. 3 Nozomi Okuhara of Japan was upset 21-12, 22-20 by Thailand's Porntip Buranaprasertsuk (No. 23).

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 08, 2016, with the headline 'Danny, Neo revive Rio chances with upset win'. Print Edition | Subscribe